If former or current locations of Ian Harte’s glorious left foot being utilised on set-pieces is your forte, (you’re now a Bournemouth fan) or you just like keeping track of the clubs that nobody really notices, then the current form of Levante may have put a smile on your face.
Levante remain unbeaten during the last 8 games in La Liga, including a 1-1 draw with Barcelona, and head to Santiago Bernabeu on Sunday with the confidence of a team who could get a result and blow the title race wide open. They also head to the home of the league leaders with a goalkeeper, Keylor Navas, who has kept 5 clean sheets in those 8 games and is reportedly being tracked by AC Milan and Liverpool.
Navas was the hero against Barcelona, producing a number of top-class saves to frustrate the champions and will be the man England need to get past when they come up against his Costa Rica team in Brazil this summer. Spearheading the defence right in front of Navas, is seasoned veteran and former Spain international Juanfran.
The 37 year old, who was given his last cap for his country 11 years ago, has been rolling back the years at Estadio Ciudad this season. This is his second spell at the club having started his career there and it seems only fitting should he end his playing days at Levante having travelled around different parts of Europe plying his trade. Levante made their European competition debut in 2012 and it was Juanfran who got their first and winning goal in their Europa League tie against Helsingborg.
During that campaign, Levante made it to the Round of 16, losing to Rubin Kazan, a team who have beaten Barcelona at the Nou Camp in recent years, and will be aiming to qualify for the competition again this season. They currently sit 7 points behind Real Sociedad, who are in the automatic Europa League qualification place, and if current form is anything to go by (they cruised past Osasuna with 10 men for the last 30 minutes to win 2-0 in their last game), anything is possible for this side.
Anything certainly is possible, however, Levante’s lack of goals could be seen as somewhat of a worry with their top scorer, David Barral, only netting 7 goals, including a penalty, in the league. Although what Levante lack in goals, they certainly make up for with experience.
Having a squad with an average age of 29 years old, Jaoquin Caparros’ men certainly know how to frustrate opponents and grind out results. This could be a major factor in them finishing in a very high place come the end of the season
Being only outdone by a (deflected) stoppage time winner from Ronaldo in the reverse fixture, this game on Sunday in Madrid and the rest of the season, in fact, for Levante could have a very happy ending for their fans and of course the football connoisseurs and romantics of this world.
By Andy Harte – Arsenal fan – @andyharte_